June gloom.

It most popularly refers to Southern California’s weather this month. However, it could also perfectly describe June’s dramatic increase in power outages caused by metallic balloons since this month is usually the worst for them.

In four of the last five years, Southern California Edison (SCE) suffered its most balloon-related outages in June, with the 126 in June 2012 being the highest of any month in the past five years. There were 110 last June.


 

The general reasons are Father’s Day and the graduations that people enjoy celebrating with balloons. But the specific problem is the people who fail to tie their balloons to a weight heavy enough to keep them from floating away as required by law and those who release them outdoors.

“People should keep the balloons indoors, if at all possible, but they should never remove that weight no matter where the balloons are kept,” said Don Neal, director of Corporate Environmental, Health and Safety at SCE. “It is absolutely the best way to prevent them from getting loose and into power lines.”

In the last five years, nearly 18 percent (542) of SCE’s 3,033 balloon-related outages have occurred in June. To compare, 14 percent (429) of balloon outages came in the next highest month of May in that span.

The only other months that come close to May and June for SCE are March and February, which accounted for 8.9 percent (269) and 8.8 percent (266), respectively, in the last five years.

In a good sign, February and March dipped significantly this year, with SCE experiencing 30 balloon-related outages this past February compared to 59 in that month last year. There were 51 this past March compared to 74 in that month last year.

But, of course, those are still too many.

“Even one balloon outage is one more than necessary,” said Neal. “That’s why people should always do the right thing to keep them secured because it only takes one to disrupt the lives of thousands of people.”

Disruptions are felt by drivers who encounter heavy traffic because of inoperable stoplights to people doing routine tasks at home, riding elevators and performing errands such as shopping and refueling their automobiles, to name a few.

Perhaps the most serious issue is when the balloon contact is explosive enough — there is usually a loud bang followed by a disintegrated balloon when one hits a power line — that it causes the power line to sever and dangle or fall to the ground. This presents a major fire and safety threat and typically prolongs an outage.

If balloons ever lead to dangling or downed power lines — even if they appear not to be live — do not touch or approach them and call 911 immediately.

In addition, no one should ever try to retrieve a balloon — or any foreign object — caught in power lines or poles. Instead, call SCE at 800-611-1911. Balloons also should never be released to discard them. Instead, you should puncture them several times or cut the knot with scissors and throw them in the garbage.

“June is special for many families and we can keep it that way if the public acts responsibly with metallic balloons,” said Neal. “These are definitely outages that can easily be prevented.”